Unplugging from Social Media Boosts Productivity, Human Connection
Upon returning to stay with family in Olympia, Wash., to continue work on SeedSpeak, our Knight News Challenge Project, as well as complete a long-postponed creative writing project, I decided to commit myself to disconnecting completely from social media for two months. And, to the greatest extent possible, I wanted it to be an all-around web media fast. Apart from the most essential of emails, this post marks my first web communique to the world since my return home.
No instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare. (However, as an unapologetic news junkie, I put no such limits on news produced by professionals -- call it a weakness.)
mediumplug.jpg Exactly what led me to disengage from social media remains unclear even to me, and it's likely a question that a psychologist is better equipped to answer. And while it's tough to measure net losses or gains from such a months-long abstinence, I identified what I think are some positive effects.
First, my productivity went through the roof. In just a few short weeks, I brainstormed and completed the requirements documentation for SeedSpeak's next phase of development, complete with lo-fi prototypes, a revamped business plan, and a trove of marketing material. And the creative writing project? It got done -- ahead of schedule. Enough said.
Secondly, I had a chance to sit, observe and connect with people in real life. Sitting adjacent to the old-school community bulletin board at the entrance to downtown Olympia's Caffe Vita, I struck up three separate conversations, and collaboratively sketched out two new hardware technology ideas.
These ideas ended up inspiring two additional digital product ideas. Plenty of this owes to Washington's particularly open coffee shop culture, Olympia's close-knit community, and my strategic location next to the community bulletin board. But these impromptu encounters happen everywhere, and they beg the question: How can digital technology not just facilitate -- but also enhance -- these encounters?
Others, of course, have engaged in somewhat more formal experiments in media deprivation, such as the recent week-long, college-wide ban at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, or the day-long experiment at U.K.'s Bournemouth University, where participants shared experiences similar to mine.
Carving a space for solitude and (relative) isolation may be a greater challenge than ever before, but the rewards are no doubt worth the effort. Just ask Emerson or Iron Man. Indeed, when thinking about how to improve the way people communicate, there's certainly no shame in asking the question: "What would my fictional and literary idols do?"
I won't argue for a minute that any theoretical costs to our mental and physical health or quality of relationships outweigh the myriad benefits of social media and other web communication and collaboration tools. After all, that's why we love working with digital technology, right? And taking a break from social media simply isn't an option for those whose livelihoods depend on those instant, timely updates. But if disconnecting in some way, whether from the web or some other energy-intensive part of the daily routine, has the potential to shake loose inspiration and innovation, why not value it as much as the very web connectedness that gives us access to great ideas and helps us collaborate?
Photo of a plug by One Tree Hill Studios via Flickr.
It’s the Wild West for teens when it comes to privacy online;
When Scott Fitzsimones turned 13, he got an iPhone, set up accounts for Facebook and Pandora and went on an apps downloading spree. At the same time, the new teenager lost many protections over his privacy online.
The games he plays know his location at any given moment through the phone’s GPS technology. He has entered his parents’ credit card number to buy apps, and iTunes has his family’s e-mail address and everyone’s full names. Facebook knows his birth date and the school he attends.
At an age when his parents won’t let him go to the mall alone and in an era when he would never open up to a stranger, Fitzsimones, who lives in Phoenix, already has a growing dossier accumulating on the Web. And while Congress has passed laws to protect the youngest of Internet users from sharing much information about themselves, once those children become teens, the same privacy rules no longer apply.
"It’s the Wild West for teens when it comes to privacy online,” said Kathryn Montgomery, a privacy advocate and communications professor at American University.
The federal government has a history of regulating media to protect children under age 12. Examples are the 1998 children’s Internet privacy law and television advertising limits that were set for broadcasters and cable networks in 1990. And recent problems with Internet privacy and security — such as last week’s breaches at Sony’s online gaming network — have led to renewed calls for regulations to protect consumers. For the first time, the White House has called for Internet privacy rules.
But experts on adolescent development say youths between 13 and 18 deserve special attention. Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said last week they are working on a bill to limit the collection of personal information about teens and prevent targeted marketing to them.
Adolescents are among the most voracious and precocious users of new mobile Internet services, constantly making grown-up decisions with grown-up consequences, experts say. But, according to Montgomery, “Their ability to make decisions is still forming and clearly different from that of adults.”
‘I never say no’
With few restraints, teens are creating digital records that also shape their reputations offline. All the status updates, tweets and check-ins to specific locations can be reviewed by prospective employers, insurance companies and colleges.
Web firms say sensitive data can be collected only with permission and that parents can set controls on phones and desktop computers to help keep teens out of the public eye. But for teens like Fitzsimones, the opportunities to share information online are so frequent and routine that they hardly even stop to think about them.
The first time he was asked to share his location on the game Pocket God, the seventh-grader paused for a moment to consider why the company would want to know his whereabouts.
But he feared that if he didn’t agree, his experience on the app would be limited, and Fitzsimones wanted to get started on his cartoon pygmy ad ven ture on Oog Island. So he tapped “okay,” feeling comfort in the masses; his friends, after all, were using the app and never complained.
By Cecilia Kang,
Royal Wedding On YouTube Viewed Over 100 Million Times, 77 Million Live Streaming Views
Kate and WilliamOver 100 million people watched the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton on YouTube. While that may not be able to compete with the number of people who watched it on television, it’s still a great number.
The Royal Wedding was just the latest in a long line of tests for online video. It passed, and with flying colors, as it has with every other test it has faced.
The wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton was available to watch from a number of sources on the Web, but YouTube was the official site chosen, and thanks to its notoriety was the choice most people made.
On April 29 the happy couple finally made their alliance legal, and millions watched them do it online. So much for the supposed desire for a republic…
The royal wedding didn’t manage to break the Internet as predicted in some quarters. In fact, all the major sites held up as people viewed and commented on the event. But that doesn’t mean it was ignored, and actually millions of people ended up watching Wills and Kate get married on YouTube.
According to the Official YouTube Blog, the royal wedding was live streamed 72 million times as it was happening, with 29 million more people watching a rerun later that same day. That’s 101 million streams in total, making it a hugely successful undertaking for YouTube specifically and online video as a whole.
People from 188 countries watched the royal wedding, with the U.K., the U.S., Italy, Germany, and France being the top five countries for viewers.
The biggest moment of the whole event was when the young couple kissed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, at which point the Google-owned site dealt with 100,000 additional requests.
The Internet succeeded and YouTube succeeded when it came to the royal wedding. 100 million is an amazing number of people who watched the coverage, and the fact 72 million people watched the event streaming live has to be considered a huge victory. Not just for the royal couple but for the sector as well.
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